Electronics Software Development

Arduino Pro IDE: Alpha Preview

Arduino Pro IDE- A Quick Review
Written by John Woolsey

Arduino announced the new Arduino Pro IDE at Maker Faire Rome this past Saturday. It was designed and built to “appeal to the more advanced developers”. It is available for Linux, macOS, and Windows platforms.

The IDE supports light and dark themes, basic auto-completion, Git integration, and many other features in a modern, fully featured development environment. Some of the upcoming features, e.g. Arduino Create synchronization, debugging capabilities, third party plugin support, and support for multiple programming languages, will prove game changing for the Arduino community.

The frontend of the new IDE is based on the open source Eclipse Theia platform, which uses state-of-the-art web technologies to provide cloud and desktop IDEs supporting multiple programming languages. The backend is based on the recently released Arduino CLI, which provides complete support for boards, libraries, and the environment from the command line.

I performed a cursory review of the new IDE over the weekend running on my macOS Mojave system. I found it a little buggy, but full of potential. It hung the first time I opened it and I had to kill the application process. It did open just fine on subsequent attempts.

The IDE has multiple modes to suit your experience level. I primarily tested the full featured Advanced Mode selected from the toggle at the top right corner of the IDE.

The IDE does not provide preinstalled cores, e.g. arduino:avr:uno (Arduino Uno R3) and arduino:megaavr:uno2018 (Arduino Uno WiFi R2). They need to be installed using the new Board Manager that can be accessed from Tools within the main menu.

On my installation, I was able to select a board, but port discovery is currently not working so I was unable to test uploading to a board. This appears to be a macOS related issue and has already been reported.

While viewing a sketch, the top level file and outline views from the right side panels are extremely helpful for moving around quickly through many lines of code. The Explorer view lets you quickly view a directory structure and selectively pick your files of interest. I am also enjoying the new Dark Theme.

I also liked the Problems (bottom panel and side quick view) where you can jump to issues the IDE found in your code, but it currently seems to get a bit confused at times. Along with the Problems tab, the bottom panel also contains an Output tab. This allows you to view different sources of output, e.g. Arduino, Arduino Compile, Arduino: daemon, etc.

The Arduino CLI backend leaves its .elf and .hex files in the sketch directory after compilation. This is probably expected for those of you familiar with Arduino CLI, but can be a bit of a surprise if you are not. It would be nice to have the option of whether to keep or delete those files after use.

Overall, I am very pleased to see Arduino taking the initiative and move in this direction. I am looking forward to the upcoming changes and many years of enhanced productivity. Kudos to Arduino.

Please keep in mind that this is the very first alpha release of the new Arduino Pro IDE. It is not ready for primetime and it may take some time before there is a fully stable release. Arduino is requesting that people try out the new Arduino Pro IDE and file issues and feature requests so that they can continue to improve the IDE.

About the author

John Woolsey

John is an electrical engineer who loves science, math, and technology and teaching it to others even more.
He knew he wanted to work with electronics from an early age, building his first robot when he was in 8th grade. His first computer was a Timex/Sinclair 2068 followed by the Tandy 1000 TL (aka really old stuff).
He put himself through college (The University of Texas at Austin) by working at Motorola where he worked for many years afterward in the Semiconductor Products Sector in Research and Development.
John started developing mobile app software in 2010 for himself and for other companies. He has also taught programming to kids for summer school and enjoyed years of judging kids science projects at the Austin Energy Regional Science Festival.
Electronics, software, and teaching all culminate in his new venture to learn, make, and teach others via the Woolsey Workshop website.

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